The Runner Sports

Capitals Force Game 7 In Dominating Win

The Washington Capitals came into Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the brink of elimination. They brought the heat as they dominated their way to a 5-2 win on enemy ice.

Washington jumped on top during a first period power play. TJ Oshie fired a one-timer shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to put the visitors on top. In the second period, Andre Burakovsky snuck a shot through Fleury for a 2-0 lead. The floodgates opened in the third period. First, Nicklas Backstrom torched Fleury’s glove side with a high wrist shot to make it 3-0. Then, John Carlson put a power play slap shot top shelf for a 4-0 Capitals lead. Burakovsky scored his second of the game with another high shot a minute later. Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin scored in the final two minutes to finally get Pittsburgh on the board but it wasn’t enough.

From the drop of the puck, Washington thoroughly dominated the Penguins. They continued their level of play from the third period of Game 5 and it paid huge dividends. Don’t take my word for it. Let’s check the stats. First up, shots on goal.

If I had said before the game that Washington would hold Pittsburgh to just 9 shots after two periods, you would have called me crazy right? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what happened. After two periods, Washington held the shots advantage by a 16-9 margin. They finished the game with a 26-18 difference. It may not seem like a big deal by the numbers but that’s impressive against a high-powered offense like the Penguins. It’s a testament to how strong the Washington defense performed. Speaking of defense…

One area that Washington excelled at last year when these teams faced off was physical play. This trend continued in Game 6. Washington outhit Pittsburgh by a 38-32 margin. Forwards Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson led the team with 5 hits each and Evgeny Kuznetsov and Carlson each chipped in with 4. On defense, Washington also had 12 blocked shots. This was key in limiting Pittsburgh’s offense. Three players had at least two blocks (Lars Eller, Wilson, and Kuznetsov). Another area won by Washington was a crucial one: turnovers.

The Capitals dominated the turnover battle and it wasn’t even close. They gave the puck away a mere four times while forcing Pittsburgh into 11 turnovers. One of the biggest turnovers came on Burakovsky’s first goal. He knocked Pittsburgh defender Ron Hainsey off the puck along the boards and skated in for his goal. Nicklas Backstrom led the team with 2 takeaways. Going into Game 7, the Capitals should look to keep up their puck pressure and it will lead to more takeaways.

While it was a huge win for the team, two players deserve recognition: Burakovsky and Braden Holtby.

Burakovsky has been a revelation for Washington since being moved to the first line alongside Backstrom and Oshie. After scoring his first goal of the playoffs in Game 5, he put up a two-goal night in Game 6. Both of his goals came from robbing defenders of the puck and great patience on his second goal to evade an outstretched defender’s stick. A great move by head coach Barry Trotz that may have rejuvenated Washington’s secondary offense.

Since Game 5’s third period, Braden Holtby has regained his 2016 Vezina Trophy form. Alongside Burakovsky, he was the MVP of Game 6. Holtby made 16 of 18 saves and had one of his best games of the playoffs. He did an outstanding job of not allowing many rebounds to bounce out and flashed the glove a time or two. This is a great rebound from his struggles in Game 2. He will need to be just as stellar in Game 7.

A special shout-out should also go to the work of Washington’s special teams. They went two for four on the power play and killed off all three Pittsburgh man-advantage chances. The tic-tac-toe passing that led to Oshie’s goal was a thing of beauty as was their pressure on puck carriers when on the penalty kill. A fantastic game by the special teams.

After a game like that, there’s not much bad that can be said but some things will be addressed in my keys to Game 7 article so stay tuned for that.

What’s NextThe Capitals will play their biggest game of the season when they return to Verizon Center for Game 7 on Wednesday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM.

Andrew Markowitz

Longtime Capitals fan hoping to see a Stanley Cup parade in D.C. this year...or at least once in my life

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